For the Government to restore grants for student teachers’ attendance at mandatory Gaeltacht courses.

Students starting their programme of initial primary teacher education since the 2012/13 academic year have been required to self-fund fees relating to three weeks of mandatory Gaeltacht placement. These costs had previously been covered by a €637 state grant for the three-week placements. With roughly 1350 participants, the overall cost of the grant was in the region of €860,000 per annum.

In May 2012, a Gaeltacht Placement Working Group report to the Teaching Council warned that the withdrawal of government funding for student teacher placement was “a matter of serious concern and may deter persons from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds from enrolling on programmes of initial teacher education”. In September 2014 the Minister for Education acknowledged “that the funding of the Gaeltacht Placement is a significant cost to students and their families” and estimated the cost of restoring the grant for the extended four-week placement at €1 million.

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Students engaged in programmes of initial teacher education have between 18 and 30 contact hours per week, with additional responsibilities in mandatory placement periods and lesson plan preparation. The very nature of the programmes restricts access to consistent employment. Before Gaeltacht placement costs, students face annual costs of attending college of up to €11,000. (DIT Campus Life, 2016). A previous Minister for Education and Skills (Written Answers, 1 July 2014) had indicated that support is available to these students through Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) but is only available to students who already receive maintenance payments through SUSI. USI proposes the reinstatement of the state grant to cover all four weeks of mandatory placement for students and supports submissions made by the INTO on this matter.